Blackhawks

Blackhawks sign coveted international free agent

Blackhawks sign coveted international free agent

After drawing interest from multiple NHL teams, Czech defenseman Jan Rutta has decided to sign with the Blackhawks, the team announced Wednesday. It's a one-year entry-level contract.

“Jan has been on our radar for a number of years and he has shown great progress on the ice during that time,” GM Stan Bowman said in a statement. “His addition to the organization makes our defense more dynamic and he has shown he can contribute offensively as well.”

The 26-year-old blue liner has spent the last four seasons playing for the Pirati Chomutov in the Czech Extraliga, where he was teammates with recently-signed Czech forward David Kampf.

Rutta ranked second in the league with 34 points, racking up eight goals and 24 assists in 46 regular-season games during the 2016-17 campaign. He also tallied two goals and 11 assists in 17 playoff contests.

Rutta scored one goal in eight games during the IIHF World Championships with the Czech Republic, sharing a blue line with current Blackhawks defenseman Michal Kempny.

With Brian Campbell (38) and Johnny Oduya (35) set to hit unrestricted free agency on July 1, and the possibility of losing Trevor van Riemsdyk in the expansion draft or via trade, the Blackhawks could use some fresh blood on the back end.

At 6-foot-3, 198 pounds, Rutta has a right-handed shot and is known to be an offensive defenseman. He turns 27 in July, and gives the Blackhawks an option to hop into the lineup right away.

Blackhawks not going to 'freak out' about 0-2-1 start

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USA Today

Blackhawks not going to 'freak out' about 0-2-1 start

The Blackhawks wanted to get off to a strong start this season because they know how hard it is to climb out of a hole in the Central Division. Last season was proof of that.

Well, they've picked up only one out of a possible six points through three games and are one of three teams still searching for their first victory of the season. But they're not going into panic mode just yet.

"We know there's things we have to improve upon," Jonathan Toews said. "Jeremy [Colliton] always talks about doing the right thing and over time eventually you're going to get results. I don't know if we can say we're doing things the right things that we want to and we're playing complete games right now, so even having said that, midway through the San Jose game and even against Winnipeg we were in a position to take control of the game going into the third period and we let teams back in. So I think there's a lot of ways we can play better.

"But having said that we're in those games and giving ourselves a chance to win. Obviously that's not good enough, but we're not going to freak out and say, 'we've got to start winning games.' Of course that's the goal, we wanted to get two points the other night."

The quest to pick up their first two points of the season doesn't get any easier for the Blackhawks on Monday night. The Edmonton Oilers are coming to town with a 5-0-0 record, and they're clicking on all cylinders. They have the second-best power play unit (41.2 percent), second-best penalty kill percentage (94.1), the NHL's leading point-getter in Connor McDavid (12) and leading goal scorer in James Neal (seven).

The Blackhawks know at some point they have to start stringing together some wins, but they're not living and dying by the standings right now because everything looks out of proportion. They're focused on the process and putting together a full 60-minute effort.

"It's always magnified at the start of the year," Colliton said. "Your special teams, you got [teams] with 100 percent PK, you got [teams] with 40 percent power play, and all the little things they look way bigger than they are. Would be nice for us to get a win, get some positive feelings but any three-game window among the 82, it's not going to be looked upon as closely as this one.

"So again, we've just got to focus on playing hard, playing the game the right way, do the right thing time and time again and we'll get the results." 

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Corey Crawford to start in goal for Blackhawks vs. Oilers

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USA Today

Corey Crawford to start in goal for Blackhawks vs. Oilers

Corey Crawford will start in goal for the Blackhawks when they take on the Edmonton Oilers on Monday night. He's 0-2-0 with a 4.63 goals-against average and .875 save percentage this season.

In 18 career appearances against the Oilers, Crawford is 9-7-0 with a 2.53 goals-against average, .909 save percentage and one shutout. 

The decision is a little surprising, given how well Lehner performed on Saturday against the Winnipeg Jets and what his career numbers are against the Oilers. In eight starts vs. Edmonton, Lehner is 5-1-2 with a 1.86 goals-against average, .943 save percentage and one shutout.

"We're going to continue to ... both guys are going to get in," coach Jeremy Colliton said after Monday's morning skate. "They're both going to play. I'm not going to give you the road map, but today it's Crawford and we'll go from there."

The Blackhawks are seeking their first win of the season (0-2-1) against an Oilers team that's 5-0-0.

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